When we suffer from self-esteem instability, we experience swings between low and high self-esteem depending on the moment and our environment.
Everyone has self-esteem, like breathing or being hungry; it is a natural phenomenon. However, it can vary significantly from low self-esteem to high self-esteem.
When we suffer from unstable self-esteem, we may suddenly switch between low and high self-esteem depending on environmental triggers or mood swings. This leads to defensive behaviors to compensate for the low or fragile high self-esteem behavior, which in turn create their own problems in a vicious circle.
Read on to learn more about how self-esteem affects our behavior and why inappropriately defending it can cause even more issues.
Table of Contents
Self-esteem instability: Introduction
Having low or high or vulnerable self-esteem is not especially easy to manage in everyday life.
Indeed, people with low self-esteem are often defined as people who do not know how to assert themselves, or sometimes, only in a hostile way.
They can be aloof so that others cannot see their emotionality. They can also be brittle to dissuade them from starting a discussion or counter-attack. They prefer to act this way because they do not feel able to keep up with a tense exchange.
One could ask oneself how people with low self-esteem can cope with success, such as a professional promotion.
Indeed, the success of an achievement inevitably attracts attention and pressures, solicitations, expectations, etc. Consequently, the impostor syndrome will be activated, and people who are not self-confident will say to themselves:
“What if they find out that I am not up to it?”
As a result, there is a temptation to create a caricature of good self-esteem to display confidence to others.
Behavioral changes based on self-esteem
Surface changes in self-esteem-related behaviors can also occur in short cycles, oscillating from moment to moment.
For example, during mood swings, when a person is feeling down, they can quickly become arrogant and unpleasant.
Behaviors will also vary according to the domain (public or private life) or the environment (whether it is safe or threatening).
People with low self-esteem but who want to enhance their self-esteem in the eyes of others can sometimes do so by putting down others.
Let’s take the example of a wife who becomes ironic and mean to her husband in front of others. By publicly belittling her spouse, she gives herself the illusion of elevating herself, of valuing herself by distancing herself from him. She imagines that others did not find him up to par.
However, their behavior can be uncomfortable and lead to harsh or sympathetic judgments about the person.
Another example concerns people who have a lesser professional status than them, such as employees, receptionists, service personnel, etc.
Some TV personalities are kind as long as the cameras are rolling or a large audience is watching.
However, as soon as the spotlight is turned off, their behavior could turn to contempt or pettiness toward these people.
Inappropriate strategies for protecting self-esteem
All these behaviors don’t work, and it’s always the same scenario repeating itself, along with its adverse effects:
- A sense of personal fragility, real or perceived.
- Which makes one worried (in anticipation) and vulnerable (in the present moment) to aggressions (whether real or imagined) on the self-esteem.
- These inadequate reflections on oneself and one’s environment trigger bad reflexes.
- These lead to inappropriate strategies. A large part of the suffering of self-esteem thus comes from piloting errors. These attempts at solutions become a much more annoying problem than the one they were supposed to solve.
- The long-term consequences are chronically uncomfortable emotions and successes that are never reassuring because they are always conditional (“I am accepted only if I behave in such and such a way”).
All of these maladaptive self-esteem protection strategies are self-esteem problems.
These over-defensive attitudes can block learning, evolution, and the construction of oneself.
All efforts will be devoted to self-defense rather than growth. From then on, personal development is sacrificed for a sense of security.
And so we find ourselves stuck in a self-made prison, where we suffocate, get bored and worry… Instead of enjoying a life in which we learn a little every day to become better versions of ourselves, alone or with others.
Self-esteem instability: Conclusion
Low self-esteem can lead to problematic behaviors in everyday life.
Indeed, people with low self-esteem can be not only arrogant but also annoying to others.
Ideally, our self-esteem is something we can adjust at will when in front of others and depending on our environment. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to find the right balance of self-esteem…